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Two Types of Hearing Loss: Which Do You Have?

Two Types of Hearing Loss: Which Do You Have?

There are two primary types of hearing loss, and it’s perhaps easiest to think of these as mechanical and electronic. Mechanical hearing loss, medically known as conductive loss, occurs when there’s a physical reason why sound can’t get to the inner ear. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is the electronic version. In this type, there’s a problem with the inner ear or the way that auditory information reports to the brain. It’s also possible to have a hearing issue that combines elements of both of these types. 

At Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates, we help you determine the type of hearing loss you have. More importantly, we help you overcome your hearing loss. 

Some forms of conductive loss can be treated. Sensorineural losses are typically permanent, so we have a team of audiologists ready to help you find the assistive devices you need to live a fulfilling life as you hear all of the wonderful sounds you’ve been missing. 

The anatomy of the ear

The ear divides into three general sections: the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ears are easy to see. These fleshy appendages collect and deliver the vibrations from the air that create the sounds we hear. 

The middle ear starts with the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. The vibrations of sound lead to changes in air pressure, which in turn cause the eardrum to move in and out. Behind it, a series of tiny bones mechanically amplify the eardrum’s  movements, delivering sound vibrations to the inner ear. 

Fluid-filled chambers in the inner ear are lined with tiny hairs called cilia. Each one responds to a frequency of sound and converts the movement of the fluid to a tiny electrical signal, which nerves then carry to the brain. The brain interprets these signals into the sounds we hear. 

Conductive hearing loss

The outer and middle ear are where conductive hearing loss happens. Perhaps the best way to illustrate how conductive loss happens is to imagine putting in earplugs. The plugs stop the free movement of sound vibrations, so the overall loudness of sound decreases. 

Similar situations occur when ear wax accumulates in your outer ear, or when fluid builds up in the middle ear, which is normally filled with air. These problems change the way your ear conducts sound waves, causing hearing loss. Some of the reasons for this can be treated to improve your hearing. 

Sensorineural hearing loss

Many cases of sensorineural hearing loss originate with damage to the cilia in the inner ear, and some result from damage to the hearing nerve. It’s the most common form of hearing loss, and it results from a variety of conditions. These include: 

Sensorineural hearing loss isn’t usually treatable directly, but we can help you hear better with custom-prescribed hearing aids.

You can find out which type of hearing loss you have through a hearing evaluation with the head and neck specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates. Call our office in Lawrence or Ottawa, Kansas, today or request your appointment online, and we’ll take it from there.

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